Mouthpiece at Soho Theatre
A woman is about to purposely plunge to her death. Saved at the very last second by a teenage boy, her life and that of her rescuer are changed forever as we as an audience are taken on an utterly riveting ride. Director Orla O’Loughlin seldom affords us the opportunity to come up for air during this intense hour-and-a-half play, which seamlessly transitions between laugh out loud funny and disturbingly dark.
Libby (Neve McIntosh) is a frustrated writer who hasn’t actually put pen to paper in years. Declan (Lorn Macdonald) is a talented adolescent artist with a volatile home life. As the pair form an unlikely and often uneasy friendship, Libby finds the muse she’s been longing for and decides to tell Declan’s story – whether he wants her to or not. Playwright Kieran Hurley effectively presents two very different worlds within one city. Here we have the cultural, middle-class Edinburgh forced to face the poverty-stricken one. Does Libby, or anyone for that matter, have the right to tell someone else’s story and is doing so exploitative?
Of course, any two-hander requires chemistry between the actors and we have that in abundance here. McIntosh and Macdonald are clearly comfortable and compatible performing together, providing a clear contrast between their respective characters, which only succeeds in emphasising their individual strengths and flaws. Macdonald is captivatingly convincing, pulling his character back from the realms of working-class stereotype and offering a masterclass in acting. McIntosh is equally remarkable as she presents a certain human vulnerability despite her character’s thoughtlessness, eliciting our sympathy and at times our scorn.
Kai Fischer’s design incorporates words on a screen, either informing us of location or transcribing what a character is saying or doing. This Brechtian technique only furthers the idea that this is a play which has something to say. With Libby narrating some of the action in addition to this and Declan stepping out and joining the audience during the climax, again we are thrust between being fully engrossed in the world of the play and reflecting on what is being explored – but there is sharp wit, biting humour and heart here too.
Many questions are asked throughout the show but we are left to consider some of the answers ourselves. Upon leaving the theatre, we can’t help but reflect on the incredibly impressive acting and the polished production, but it’s the thought-provoking ideas and questions that Hurley poses which whirl around in our heads as we return to reality and in this reviewer’s opinion, that is what only the very best theatre is capable of achieving.
Photo: Roberto Ricciuti
Mouthpiece is at Soho Theatre from 2nd April until 4th May 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.